I’m a better mom at Target.

Last night, I took Isaac to the movies. He’d had two great days in a row at school, Ryan was out of town, and I have a cold: all signs pointing to YES! Take that child to the theater with those large, comfortable seats and darkness-welcoming relaxation after single parenting for 3 days. (I bow in awe of all you full time single parents. You have my undying admiration.) I’d considered just watching a movie at home, (a treat for a kid who isn’t allowed screentime during the week save for school work), but I’ve got this thing… I’m a far better parent out of my house than in it.

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Movie theaters demand rapt attention.

I have my moments, sure, (we’re about to sew a Dracula cape for a stuffed rabbit), but mostly when I’m home, the sirens call to me. I’m like the mom equivalent of a sailor except instead of luring me with the enticement of sex and beauty, they’re calling to me about laundry, cleaning, emailing, reorganizing, and dirty dishes. Also, there are the REALLY lovely ones who beckon with awaiting books or backlogged magazines or Instagram. You guys, they do that creepy, witchy, come-hither-finger-thing and I DO! I DO come hither! I AM NOT STRONG ENOUGH! I AM WEAK! *Admits defeat by flicking through an instagram feed of Sphinx cats.*

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Laundry. So much laundry.

It is hard for me to admit this. I know so many moms who seem to come into their own by spending time with their children in their homes. They’re crafting with them, baking with them, playing games with them, painting with them, taking sunlight filled pictures of them frolicking in meadows to post on social media and send me into a spiral of mom guilt. (There aren’t enough meadows in our schedule! We need more meadows!)

Aside from the meadows though, I do all of those things- I do. It’s just that I’m not totally present though much of it because of the F*CKING SIRENS. I spend a lot of time saying, “Let me finish this, buddy, and I’ll be right there!” And I do get right there, but I also then feel like I’d been choosing to spend more of my time with the Dyson or my child’s dirty clothes instead of with my actual child. *Exasperated guttural mom cry*

Now, to be fair, most of those things DO need to get done. Even the reading is important because I know I am a better mom when I pour some time into myself. (I’m having a more difficult time justifying the Sphinx cats…) All of those things are part of parenting and if I don’t keep up with them we won’t have any open, clean spaces in which to build Dracula’s Lair. Ninja Turtle hideout? The North Pole? Dracula is giving out presents at the North Pole while the Ninja Turtles pull the sleigh??? Honey, I’m going to finish the laundry- I have no idea how to even attempt to play that game. (Which, in itself, is a whole other reason why getting out, out and AWAY is better: I don’t know what the hell is going on in his imaginative role playing and when I do try, I get a lot of, “Mom, that’s not really how you do it.” Enter the Dyson.)

So we go out.

We go for hikes.

We go to museums.

We go get ice cream.

We go to the park.

We run errands. I actually think I may be a better mom in Target than I am in our own house sometimes. I am not kidding.

What I am saying is, if you are one of those moms who can’t seem to get herself together at home enough to be as present as you’d like, I AM TOO. I’m mostly sure this is totally fine! I don’t think I’m the most reliable source on that, but at any rate, there’s strength in numbers and I know for a fact I’m not the only one, so there’s that. No shame! Well, not really. I actually feel really bad about it. But I feel a lot better when we’re at the ice cream shop… or on a wooded trail…  or at *cue angelic choir* Target.

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Dracula Bunny. Ta da!

A time to be still and be quiet.

We had a meeting with Isaac’s kindergarten teacher this week. I’d requested one because there was some miscommunication and I needed clarification. As a mama who is also a teacher, I was approaching the meeting with my professional background combined with my mommy emotion and I can tell you from experience, this mixture dramatically prevents you from going into a discussion without defensiveness. In that moment, it didn’t matter that I believe Isaac’s teacher has been a great fit for him this year, it didn’t matter that I believed we’d get the confusion cleared up, and it didn’t matter that I knew we were all working toward the goal of supporting the same child.

What mattered was that I had concerns my child’s needs weren’t being met and I was going to fix it. It was a moment when he needed his parents to step up for him and doing so was just and right.

But, it’s a fine line, isn’t it? This worrying we do over our kids. There are some battles we ought to take up and there are others we ought never have entered. The degree at which we choose to take arms can vary and, as someone who battles the need for control in her own life, trusting me with that of a small child means I very often pick up a sword when I should have been handing it to my son instead.

We worry over our kids. It is part of how we are created: to keep watch, to keep them safe. To protect feelings and precious bodies. To guard from hardships and struggle. We love our kids and we worry over them- these emotions are interconnected. Our primal urge is to protect at all costs and, despite how our personal opinions may vary as to where we draw lines, we are born with the innate compulsion to protect our own.

Recently, I heard a talk by the filmmakers of the documentary, I’ll Push You. The movie follows a 500 mile trek across Spain though which one friend, Patrick, pushes his buddy, Justin, in his wheelchair. They weren’t presenting about parenting, but their words had a profound effect on the moments in which I need to back up and shut up for the sake of my child.

The transformation Justin and Patrick went through made such an impact on me because I could relate to Patrick’s desire to fix, to fight, to ease difficulty for Justin because he loved him. Eventually though, Patrick realized that the best way he could strengthen Justin was to stop trying to fix his difficulties and start finding ways to support plans Justin was perfectly capable of devising for himself. As a parent, this is a continual struggle for me, this release of responsibility to my little boy; this trusting that- even at 6- he is capable of handling far more than I am often able to admit.

Recently, I was at the Columbus Museum of Art with Isaac. They have the most imaginative, inviting children’s space and one activity presented large cardboard puzzle pieces to create a 3-dimensional tree-like structure. All three trunk tables were in use and my child, the extrovert, went directly up to two children and asked if he could please help them build. The older boy thought for a moment, looked at his sister, and then said no. HE SAID NO!! Instinctively I wanted to go to Isaac, prompt him to ask a different child, tell him I’d play with him somewhere else, but I made myself stand back.

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Do you know what my child did after he was denied playtime with that bratty other little boy? He walked over to the next table and asked a different child the same question and got a yes. THE REJECTION DIDN’T EVEN PHASE HIM. It honestly pained me more than it pained him. Had I stepped in, I would have taken that away from him. I would have taken that tiny moment in time which he will never even remember but which is gradually forming his ability to handle conflict as an adult. He is receiving these lessons now and I am doing more harm than good by trying to constantly smooth the road before him. Not every road needs smoothing.

In these smaller moments, standing still seems nearly impossible. Shutting up is even worse. To be clear, there are certainly appropriate times for standing up for our children, but I’m reluctantly realizing how many times I also need to be quiet, watch from the sidelines, and hope to God I’ve been adequately equipping my child to feel empowered to sleuth answers independently.

Honestly, when it comes down to it, my fear is not even that my child can’t overcome adversity. I have every faith in my tiny powerhouse of a boy that he is capable of feats far beyond what I could ever dream up for him. My fear is that I cannot and should not single handedly fight his battles for him and furthermore, I can’t face the self-centered lie that I would even have the capability to do so.

Yes, my son will experience trials and tribulations. Yes, some will be massive and others trivial. In the end though, Isaac’s battles are not all mine to fight and by trying, I risk victimizing my son in his own story instead of stepping back to give him the space to live into it. I am learning the hardest thing for me to do as a mother is to pray for the wisdom to instill in him strategies to fight, to overcome, and to persevere while I cheer him on from the sidelines. God, GOD, I hate that so much because it makes me feel helpless and out of control, but I also know this to be true: I want to empower him to be the hero in his own story. I want him to be an overcomer and a fighter- for all the right reasons. I want him to be strong and resilient. To feel capable and in control of his future. I am raising a strong man and I want this to be the message he hears loud and clear from me:

You are loved.

You are strong.

You are resilient.

You are capable.

You’ve got this.

Santa and the New Year 2.0

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Last year, my son told me he thought the real Santa had to be white because he’d never seen a black Santa. My heart was broken by my inability to have seen this coming as an issue. I am, after all, his mama and it was painful for me to admit I’d missed this because I’m white. But with any experience challenging what we hold as truth, we must move past the hurt, the grief, the anger, the disgust, or whatever emotion we initially feel when coming up against a viewpoint which challenges ours. We’ve got to remember that our beliefs are a result of our experiences, of which everyone has their own. The Santa oversight didn’t make me a failure as a mom, but it allowed for me to rethink the world through my son’s eyes. It is possible to reframe our beliefs when we listen well to others and, in the event you still disagree,  it is possible to continue to hold your opinion while maintaining civility and humility in sharing it- to extend humanity toward those with whom you disagree.

 

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May we, in the coming of the new year, be mindful when sharing our opinions. May they be based upon open and honest discussions, on personal connections, on voices or sources we hadn’t before considered. May we remember that opinions are fluid. May we choose our words of dissension carefully and with intention. May we learn, as I am trying, that the world is not always as it seems and only changes through a conscious effort to make it so.


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In this New Year, may you find ways to right wrongs, to stretch your comfort boundaries, and to speak with a boldness tempered with grace. May you as a result, have your own awakening experience of

watching a child

sit at the foot of a Santa

who looks

like

him.

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Thank-you to the local Jack and Jill of America chapter for setting up this event, which blessed both of us immensely this Christmas.

 

Unprepared: Walking into Adoption (Day 28 of 30 Adoption Portraits in 30 Days series)

“I was unprepared. I was unprepared for fostering, for the adoption following it, for the open adoption which unexpectedly blossomed, for raising an African American son as a white woman. I was unprepared for all of it. I didn’t know what we were getting into despite my prolific reading on the subject. Adoption caught me by surprise.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

You can read the rest of my piece for Portrait of an Adoption‘s 30 Adoption Portraits in 30 Days series here. In their words, “In honor of November being National Adoption Awareness Month, Portrait of an Adoption is hosting the fifth annual acclaimed series, 30 Adoption Portraits in 30 Days.  Designed to give a voice to the many different perspectives of adoption, this series will feature guest posts by people with widely varying experiences.”

I’m honored to be a part of the narrative.

 

What’s your ONE THING?

I went for a run this weekend and I really wanted to stop about halfway through. Usually, I hear my high school track and cross country coaches mystically yelling at me from across the 16+ year abyss: “Work it up the hills!” and “Keep up the pace!” This wasn’t that. This was me, tired after a long week of medicating a sick cat, disciplining a boundary pushing child, and a commitment immediately following school every day of the week. I wanted to walk for a little bit.

So I did it.

And it was fine!

No it wasn’t.

I hated it and I felt like a failure because I do NOT like to walk when I run, but I made myself do it anyway. I talked myself into it because I’m in my mid-thirties and I’m getting to the point where I no longer want to feel as though I have to do things that don’t make me happy just because I think I should. Or, for that matter, if I SHOULD do everything I want because even when the things I’m doing are amazing, I get overloaded.

I’m tired of feeling overloaded.

I’m tired of feeling like everything’s going to hell if I don’t do things the same way I’ve done them in the past.

I’m tired of feeling like if I don’t do _______ it will make me a crappy teacher/wife/mom/human being.

So, here’s what I decided on that run. Everyday, I’m going to think of ONE THING to say no to. To drop off. To ignore. To let go. On Sunday, I walked for a little bit in the middle of my run. I hated every second of it, but only because I felt like I was failing myself (false)- not because I wanted to start running again because I sure didn’t (truth). What it did do was allow me to take a baby step toward giving myself the freedom to release my self-imposed expectations.

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Screw you dishes. I’m going to listen to my 5 year old talk about the most fantastic purring chalk cat in the history of ever.

The thing is, I’ve had a lot of heavy talks with a lot of beautiful friends recently. We’re doing so much, so often, that we end the day expecting to finally have time to read, to watch a movie, to relax, and we see the clock and realize we’ve worked our way directly into bedtime. It is the reason I’m writing this blog 30 minutes past when I am supposed to be asleep. There was dinner to be made, and a child to be tucked in, and dishes, and clothes, and pets, and… and… and…

So I’m saying no to ONE THING a day. Maybe:

  • leaving the wet clothes in the washer overnight
  • letting the dishes stink up the kitchen sink for one more day
  • shoving my son’s clothes into his drawers instead of folding them all neatly because when he digs through them that business is happening ANYWAY
  • reading one bedtime book to him instead of two or *gasp* not reading at all for a night
  • skipping the floss
  • getting takeout
  • taking Isaac to another program at the library when he’d rather stay home and play a game with us anyway
  • putting off clipping the dog’s toenails for another day because she’s still going to act like a complete idiot on the wood floors even after I do it.

START SMALL! Build up.

I'm choosing cats. Cats trump dirty clothes every time.

I’m choosing cats. Cats trump dirty clothes every time.

I’m consciously telling all of these things, “No,” because choosing to set them aside is empowering whereas trying and not getting to them feels like a failure. I’m choosing to tell myself that all is not lost if I don’t get the chickens fresh water tonight (because it isn’t). The world will not end if I refrain from vacuuming the damn cat hair off of the couch today. Letting these things go does not make me a terrible anything. They are mini-practices for saying no to work or personal commitments I either truly want to do or just feel obligated to do, but shouldn’t be cramming into our already busy schedule. When I have time to read, to run, to do yoga, to write- these are things that make me a better EVERYTHING. I’m choosing just ONE THING a day to refuse because my time is precious and I’m tired of spending it looking in longingly from the outside. I’m saying no. (And I’m learning to be okay with it.)

What’s your ONE THING?

Sometimes, adoption sounds like this:

Example 1:

We took Isaac to meet a new before/after school, in-homedaycare provider. Isaac played with her son while I filled out paperwork. I let her know that we have an open adoption so she wouldn’t be caught unaware if Isaac brought up his sisters or his other mom. Since Isaac has shared with me that it makes him sad when people talk about adoption around him because it makes him think of his first mom, I made sure he was downstairs when I shared this information. Still, as we were heading out the door, he whipped back around and called out, “Just so you know, I’m adopted!” It was seemingly out of the blue, so I asked him where it came from. “Well, I don’t want her wondering how come that black kid is with these white people!” He said it with a crooked smile that said, “Don’t be CRAZY. I’m just setting things straight,” but it was a perfect example of how often adoption, particularly his transracial adoption, is on his brain. This wasn’t out of the blue for him. It is something he talks about periodically but thinks about frequently. Adoption can be a struggle for him.

Example 2:

A friend was visiting and playing a game with Isaac. She knows his back story and about his first family. They were in the middle of the game when Isaac said, “You know S. (his first mom) died.” She replied that, yes, she did know that. “It just makes me sad that God made S. die right in the middle of her fun,” he said. We shot eyes at each other. How do you reply to that? That didn’t just slip out- it was a comment that has been picked and pulled apart by my 5 year old and is a piece of how he is viewing God. Adoption can cause him pain.

Example 3:

I had asked Isaac to come back upstairs to shut off his bedroom lights and close the door, something he frequently forgets to do which is an irritation when you have as many animals as we do and I’d prefer my child to sleep on fur free sheets. “Aren’t you up there?” he called. I raised an eyebrow to our empty bedroom because I’m a mom and a teacher and when a child is disrespectful that eyebrow goes up no matter who’s around to see it. “You can help around the house, sir,” I called back. Complying, he stated as a matter of fact, “I don’t think I should have to,” and then went back downstairs. Ryan, having heard the exchange, asked Isaac if he’d just told me that he didn’t have to help around the house. “Well this isn’t really my house. I live in an apartment.” Ryan asked for clarification and in my upstairs eavesdropping I braced myself because I’m a mother, regardless of how that came to be true, and I could sense it before the words appeared. “Well, S. lived in an apartment before I got taken away and that’s where I was supposed to live and she’s my real mom.”

I cried. I let myself cry for about 30 seconds upstairs and then I sucked it up and went downstairs as Ryan was trying to find some appropriate way to respond. “Listen,” I said gently to our son whom I love, “I’m glad you feel comfortable talking about how adoption is sometimes hard for you and how you wish we all looked alike or how you miss your first family. You should talk about it and I’m happy to talk about it with you. But you have two moms who are real in different ways and don’t you think for a second that if S. was standing here that she would be okay with you saying that you don’t have to help out in this family. So you keep on talking about the hard stuff with us, but you will not use adoption as an excuse to not help in our family again, do you understand me?” He nodded, because he did, and he’d seen S. and I together and knew I was right, that she wouldn’t have stood for it. He needs to see me calm and willing to talk and that means crying for him as well as my own human woundedness later, when he isn’t around. Adoption is confusing to him; he needs to evaluate and push and question to see where he actually fits into his families. My personal baggage shouldn’t be his problem.

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Frankly, adoption is confusing to me too. That entire dialogue took place in the span of a few minutes but my feeling unprepared can’t be used as an excuse for a lack of response. It is a precarious balance between acknowledging his need to feel comfortable talking while also corralling my own fragility. Being a parent (through any means) requires learning to be selfless even when it hurts and I know he wasn’t trying to hurt me. He was being honest in what he’s feeling. He trusts us to share his fears and woes and I feel immensely thankful that he does. Adoption is how I became a mom, but it isn’t how he became a son; I hold in my responses the ability to make his story more or less complicated.

This is why I don’t know how to respond to adoption questions: because I’ve become so passionate about the need for us to push aside the rainbows society has fed us about adoption and start admitting that rainbows must occur along side of storms, of rain. That being said, there is also so much sunshine and every child deserves a family in which to feel safe and well loved. It is the single most difficult, beautiful, confusing path I have ever taken, and that is something I have trouble articulating because I fear it sounds as though I am discouraging adoption. On the contrary, I have felt the weight of being an adoptive parent and I see the immense responsibility it offers up and if you are ready to take up that challenge… GO! Going into adoption with open eyes will better prepare you, can only help you both in the long run. The privilege of holding the hand of a child who could use a safe place to process, to feel, to question- it is enormous. It is miraculous. It is worthy of weighing out, it is worthy of looking past the hype. Be prepared, be honest, be sincere: it is worth wading through the storms.

On mom memes.

Hey, my little Mamas! I want to talk for a second about this meme (Ryan calls them mimi’s) floating around my feed that reads:

I am a mom. My house is always loud and messy and that’s ok. Because one day it will be quiet, spotless and lonely.

Mamas. Mamas. I know it sounds like this is reassuring and that it acknowledges your struggles, but bear with me for a second. Let’s break this down:

Part 1: I am a mom. My house is always loud and messy and that’s ok. 

Ok, can we stop trying to define what it looks like to be a good mom? The ugly truth is that this is only a meme because having a messy home is something that:

A) you feel embarrassed about because you’d rather it not be that way (“I’m somehow failing because I can’t keep my house clean.”)

or

B) someone has mom-shamed you into thinking you should be embarrassed and you feel the need to defend yourself (“I don’t really care about my house being clean but ____ tells me this is bad.”).

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(This is okay.)

Maybe your home is messy because you don’t honestly have time to clean even if you wish you did (valid) or maybe it is messy because you don’t really find it to be something that is worth spending your precious energy on (also valid). You are a good mom because you constantly strive to make decisions that put your children first and that may include setting aside housework and it may not. THAT is why you’re a good mom. That’s the headliner. All of those little choices are like the footnotes. I feel better about life when my home is organized, but that is my truth. Admitting that doesn’t make me a crappy mom any more than yours being messy makes you one. We all make choices as to where to focus our energies; let’s start spreading the truth that we are good moms because we get up everyday trying over and over again and not in defining ourselves by our messy or organized homes.

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(This is okay, too.)

Part 2: Because one day it will be quiet, spotless and lonely.

Oh my word, I meant what I said in Part 1, but I really need you to listen to Part 2. Listen to me, Mamas. This sentence just depresses the crap out of me and I want more for us! Someday, yes, our homes may be quiet and they may be spotless with the extra time we have to clean. (Or they may not be since, let’s be honest, some mamas just hate cleaning and- recap- I ain’t judging you for that!) But please dear God, let us NOT be mamas who look down the road and expect loneliness! I want more for us!

I am sure I will miss my son desperately when he is grown and gone, but I am not just a mom. It is part of my definition but not my entire story. I am a woman with hobbies and passions and a husband and I’m seriously hoping that life after my child is grown is filled with new adventures and opportunities that do not require me to sit at home alone in my clean and soundless home. Women of the past, present, and future, are capable of doing amazing things and raising children is only one of our feats. Let us not forgo ourselves in raising up our children! I want my son to be able to look at his mama when he is grown and see a woman who always loves him deeply, but who is also strong and willing to learn new things, still enjoys date nights with his dad, and continues to pursue her own passions because this is the type of woman I want him to be looking for in a partner. Right now so much of my life centers around him and that is good and right, but when he is old enough to be searching for whom and what he desires to center his own life around, I don’t want my world to implode. Someday our home may be childless, but permanent loneliness shouldn’t have be a requirement of that change.

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I’m banking on dates down the road which don’t require paying more on a sitter than we do on our actual date.

Listen Mamas, you just keep making choices that work for you and your family and if another meme makes you think you’ve got to validate your truths on a topic the world would like you to be mom-shamed over, you shrug it on off. You can be a good Mama as well as a powerful woman and it isn’t asking too much to cultivate both sides of that truth.

Teach them to stay open.

A few days ago, an Amber Alert was issued for a little boy from my hometown by the name of Omarion, “Mars” for short. It was a particularly complicated case as he went missing while in the care of his foster family and was autistic and nonverbal. My small, Midwestern town rallied and searched and prayed and, five days later, his body was found in a lake in the city park which had just recently opened following much fanfare and planning.

It was impossible not to follow the case as it unfolded since there were so many posts on my social media feeds: the searches, the leads, the birth mother speaking out, the foster family keeping quiet. It wasn’t long before speculation began arising about who was to blame. Conspiracy theories bounced around and fingers were pointed. When tragedy strikes, we like to identify the root of the issue. Speculation is a natural human response to explaining the unexplainable. I watched and I mulled and I felt uncomfortably conflicted and so I mulled some more until I could put my finger onto why I felt so unsettled about my reaction to this boy’s too short story…

… and then I read this news story recalling his history:

“Omarion wears adult clothes held up by a belt and wears shoes with no soles. Omarion’s teacher provides Omarion clothing that he changes into before class starts in the morning,” court documents in Oakland County said. “Omarion is frequently bullied by his peers due to poor hygiene and for body odor. In the past, school personnel have had to give Omarion sponge baths due to his overwhelming body odor and hygiene.” (Source: Mlive)

At that moment, I realized why I was feeling uncomfortable: Mars’s tragic passing was uncommon, but his life beforehand was not. That description above? That could be detailing normalcy for any number of children living in poverty. I’ve seen it and I teach them and I’m telling you not in condescension but merely as a voice for the voiceless, this is so very disturbingly normal.

photo credit: andré´s converse via photopin (license) (No changes were made)

photo credit: andré´s converse via photopin

  • Shoes 3 sizes too big or too small
  • Pants that look like capris but are really just a younger sibling’s clothes
  • Odors of human or animal feces or urine
  • Lice jumping off heads onto tables
  • Bedbugs hiding in homework
  • Skirts in the dead of winter
  • Shirts worn 5 days in a row
  • Teeth broken in two from poor hygiene and diets
  • (And that list doesn’t even begin to address the homes of mattresses with no sheets, dog shit covered floors, roach infested kitchens…)

I know these things to be true because those are all truths from my own experiences as a teacher. That little boy’s story is shamefully normal. 

Now, lest we begin to jump on the judgement train again (and trust me, I’ve had quite a few therapy sessions revolving around resisting the urge to become completely jaded after years upon years of the same) it would do us all good to leave space for a couple of truths.

First, let us remember to be extremely careful of falling into the trap of the Single Story.

This TED talk absolutely beautifully illustrates this point, but allow me to apply it to this situation.

The foster family: On one hand, Ryan and I definitely made some crazy eyes at each other in our foster care training classes. There are some Crazy (with a capital C) people out there. Listen, they didn’t put this clause in our foster parent handbook because they were afraid someone might do it:

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On the other hand, fostering is hard. Fostering a child with special needs is hard. We don’t have enough foster families as it is and, even if these foster parents are found guilty of negligence, it is important to understand that fostering is deeply complicated in even the best case scenarios.

The birth family: First, it was difficult for me to hear Mars’s birth mother speak out about her missing son because the media was really throwing out the heartbreaking mom story. Single story, friends. Beware the single story. Certainly, definitely, grieve for this mother whose son went missing while under the care of another, but let’s not forget why he was with the other in the first place.

And yet, blame is heavy; let it not rest too heavy on any one individual. As terribly conflicting as it is to accept, when children are taken from unsafe families it should not be equated with that family not loving their child. I’m not offering excuses for atrocities brought upon children. I am offering that we remember not to judge from a Single Story. Some people really suck as parenting and there are a whole host of reasons for why this occurs. Love, (as all of us who understand that any family is complicated), is sometimes just not enough.

Finally, may this serve as a reminder to all of us that we are constantly surrounded by poverty, constantly surrounded by child maltreatment, EVEN WHEN WE DON’T SEE IT. I am  surrounded by it and I still have to fight to truly see because it is so much easier to look away. But we have to look. If you don’t see it in your daily life, I encourage you to find a way to look harder. We aren’t heartless, just overwhelmed, so start small. Talk to a friend who works around poverty. Don’t skip over the journal articles about how poverty impacts children. Talk to a staff member of a school in an area of high poverty. (Remember, it doesn’t just affect urban areas. Poverty impacts rural schools just as often.) Talk to someone who is currently living in poverty.

We don’t have to fix it ourselves. We don’t have to have all the answers. We just need to stay aware. We need to get to the point where we understand that this little boy’s life wasn’t an exception to the rule; get to the point where his history horrifies us because it is yet another example of inequality and not because it is shocking in its originality.

Start small,

Beware the single story,

And keep your eyes open. Teach them to stay open.

 

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Mother’s Day for the rest of us.

A year into my infertility, I went to church on Mother’s Day. I had no qualms whatsoever, but about 20 minutes in I realized how horribly I had misjudged the effects of Mother’s Day when your  journey as a mom doesn’t fit society’s pre-defined role. I was held, sobbing, after the service by a mom who got it: who’d walked before me and said she’d been praying for me throughout the service. She knew what I hadn’t foreseen and her recognition of my unexpected and unprepared for grief was a blessing for which I wasn’t even aware that I needed.

This Mother’s Day, allow me to pass on her blessing by recognizing the unconventional, the grieving, the hopeful mamas in all of their beautiful, painful, and honest forms…

I see you mama, you who have been trying and trying, poking and medicating, charting and waiting. You who melt onto the bathroom floor when you recognize another month as a wash; when you have to tell your other half that it didn’t work. Again. I see your grief and I recognize you as the hopeful mama you are and so deeply desire to become.

I see you mama, you who suffered a terrible loss after carrying your child for all of those 9 months. You, who visit the shore or tiny gravestone where you lay your baby down. I recognize you as the mama of the children who are physically with you- and the one who isn’t.

I see you mama, you who have a family of tiny, precious embies. I know there are many who can’t see those little embryos as your babies, but they have never walked in your shoes and they do not understand how you could cherish something so small. I recognize you as the protective mama I know that you are.

I see you mama, you who have miscarried. People rarely grasp the magnitude of the grief felt when a child, for whom you were the vessel, doesn’t arrive how you’d anticipated. I recognize you mama, and how deeply you love and how carefully you carried that child.

I see you mama, you whose child was carried by another whether by adoption or surrogacy. I see the genuine joy in your face as you watch your baby grow up and I also recognize the pain that comes with never having had the chance to cup your baby’s foot as it protrudes from your own swollen belly or, perhaps, missing out on entire months or years of your child’s life. I recognize you as a real mother, as carrying a child in your womb is not the defining characteristic of a mama.

I see you mama, you who were the first and whose child is now being raised by another. I know that you are overlooked and undervalued as a parent. I recognize you as a real mother regardless of how your story has played out.

I see you mama, who are missing your own mama. You who are grieving the loss of the woman who raised you up, comforted you, was your support system. I don’t need to, but maybe you need someone to give you permission to not have to fake it through this holiday acting like you’re fine when you’re not. I’m so sorry for your loss.

To all of you who deeply desire a child, those who are mamas though unconventional means, to the mamas whose children have gone before you, to all of you who experience some level of sadness over this holiday: I recognize you in sharing your experience. If you are in a place where the grief is raw, may you be blessed by a woman who sees you and comforts you this Mother’s Day. Alternatively, if you know this grief but have walked in it long enough to have tamed the intensity, may you be wide eyed in recognizing the woman who hasn’t. May we bless each other through our shared experiences and recognize mamas in all of our many forms. Happy Mother’s Day, to ALL of you mamas.

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